Karina is addicted to books. This is her story.

{Read it from the beginning by clicking here.}

Karina hugs her book to her chest, standing upwind of the bus stop so as to avoid the cigarette smoke. She lets the others mount the steps, then follows them and wanders to the back as the bus rumbles forward. Her usual seat on the street-side window is open, and she settles in for a good long ride.

The world outside flies by. The soundtrack of brakes on the bus, cars jockeying for position, and muttered conversation contrasts nicely with the story in her hands.

Middle Earth welcomes her in. The subtle swaying and not-so-subtle jostling of the bus lull her into a sort of trance: simultaneously unaware of the world around her and hypersensitive to every sensation.

The passenger in front of her gets up as the bus slows. Karina doesn't look up, but mentally traces his footfalls as he exits. Another person takes his place as the bus fills.

It’s the last Friday of winter break and everyone seems eager to make it count. Why is it they think filling the day with people and more people is the only way? Tomorrow night they’ll all be at it again — drinking too much, kissing too much — all in the name of ringing in the new year. Another year like any other.

Karina never understood holidays. Excuses to get drunk, spend money, and give people you don’t even really care about too much of your precious time.

Books are more stable.

This year her days are her own, holidays included. Dad isn’t interested in paying for her to go home for the holidays, and she isn’t interested in going “home” anyway. What would be the point? To watch dad get drunk as the ball dropped on TV?

This year the transition into the new year will be peaceful. Maybe if she reads all night she can finish the trilogy before school starts again.

Her attention turns back to the too-polite and overly-sociable Mister Baggins. She joins him and the company of dwarves on the hunt for ancestral treasure, imagining the movement of the bus is a pony beneath her. Her stomach rumbles along with the Hobbit’s, and they both choose to reserve the provisions in their sacks for later in the evening when they will be really hungry.

Through the fair valley of Rivendell and into the Misty Mountains they ride. Days, weeks, and months pass as the bus makes its circuit around town, yet when it swings back around to her stop, she finds that a day has hardly passed in the real world.

The bus is empty by now, and the streets dark, so she walks all the way to the front doors to exit.

“Hey, didn’t you get on at this stop?” Sure she did, but what’s it to him if she wants to ride the bus from home to home? What’s it to him if she wants the stimulation of society without the responsibility of actually interacting with the people around her? What’s it to him if she likes riding the bus?

She pretends not to hear.